Seneca Nation rally opposes solar project on sacred burial grounds in Caledonia

Regional News

RUSH, N.Y. (WROC) — The Seneca nation raised their voice on Indigenous Peoples’ Day to bring attention to a proposed solar farm that they say would be built on sacred burial grounds. 

“When people come here we are brought here home and we want as long as we have to in this world that we are put back into the ground and were put back and sent back to the creator. We’re not supposed to disturb ancestors that came before us,” said Mary Jacobs of the Seneca Nation. 

The rally stems after plans were announced two years ago about a Chicago based company wanting to build a 180-megawatt installation on nearly four-thousand acres in Caledonia and Rush. It is called the Horseshoe Solar Project. Protestors say in the proposed area, there are about 12 sacred burial sites.

“There’s a lot of different sites to develop within New York state. I am sure. I see there at this time, there’s another site down there now, and if they could find an additional spot that might be better for them,” said Jacobs. 

The Nation walked for miles on Route 5/20 to the Canawaugus sign in Caledonia where they continued to their rally and raised their voice.  Leaders like Paul Winnie, of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation said that he’s not opposed to the idea of going green, but insists the project should be built elsewhere. 

“To be put in the ground forever. To be there forever. Not to be dug up and moved. That’s what we’re here for. Just like any non-native situation, I don’t think anyone wants their relatives dug up in the same manner or transferred,” said Winnie. 

Below is a statement from Kate Millar, project developer of Horseshoe Solar, regarding the event.  

Just as any project development process in New York requires significant planning and public involvement, Horseshoe Solar has an extensive public engagement process and we are committed to listening to the community. We are not proposing to build on burials and we are and have been actively consulting with the Nations throughout the permitting process to ensure that the fields hosting the project are carefully evaluated, surveyed, and researched, including a pedestrian survey of site areas in Rush and Caledonia. Solar power is one of the safest and cleanest sources of energy, and we look forward to continuing to receive feedback and to finding effective ways to bring homegrown, affordable power and economic investment to the region with interests of the Haudenosaunee and local communities in mind.

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